First United Methodist Church - Wausau Wisconsin
Saturday, June 12, 2021
Live and Share God's Love

From the Pastor

 
Rev. Rebecca Voss

Pastor

 

 

Dear First Family of Faith,

 
One of the inspirational places in our building is the beautiful stained-glass window. Jesus, lifted high and teaching from God’s Word, is the focal point. At ground level, we see a racially diverse group of people, moving in the love and freedom that Jesus, the Word of God, gives us. That has become a picture of how I think God is calling us to be. We act on our baptismal promise to “confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races” (p. 40, UMH). There are many ways God calls his people to do that. I’m excited to share some ways that leaders in our church and community have seen God answer our Breakthrough Prayer to... “Guide us by your Holy Spirit to reach new people, Connect us all through Christ’s love, and Empower us to love and serve others.”

About two months ago several people in our church shared a passion to reach out to love and to serve people who were longing for safety and freedom. God was calling us through the faces of those in refugee camps and asylum centers. We started learning more about the process of becoming an Asylum Seeker or Refugee. Briefly, a Refugee is legally defined as, “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.” (1951 Refugee Convention). Refugees are the most vetted immigrants to the US and undergo nine long and significant background checks before being allowed in the US.

Asylum Seekers escaped from wherever they were being persecuted or expelled and came across our border seeking refuge. They are not “illegal aliens”, because our laws protect all immigrants with credible fears and allow them to stay in the US during the process of being vetted. This takes an average of three years, and most are put in prisons for nothing more than the “crime” of fleeing persecution, war, or famine.

What can we do to help? Several leaders from our church reached out to various groups that help with sponsoring Asylum Seekers and Refugees. There were many closed doors because there are no resettlement agencies that cover the Wausau area. With Mayor Katie’s enthusiastic support, we were led straight to the top Director of the WI Dept. of Immigration, who teared up with joy as we described our vision to welcome a new wave of refugees to Wausau. She had just been approached by a national agency called ECDC (ecdcus.org) who wanted to come to Milwaukee, but after hearing about us, she urged them to open a new office in Wausau instead.

After meeting with the ECDC officials and several local, state, and national government leaders, we’re welcoming their representative to Wausau in a few days (May 27-29) to meet local collaborative partners, find office space, and prepare to start welcoming 75-100 refugees a year beginning this October. If all continues to go well, we’ll welcome people from Iraq and Afghanistan (those who risked their lives helping our military), Burma, Sudan, and the Congo.
There will be complications and challenges as this unfolds, but Christ clearly commanded us to welcome “strangers”. Please reach out to me and to your friends and neighbors to see how we can connect as a church and community to warmly welcome all to Wausau and our church!

Grace and Peace, Pastor Rebecca